HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – It was an article he had just read about a family being reunited with the 1938 class ring of a World War II veteran from a neighboring New Jersey town that made Brian Wilson go back and re-read the Facebook message he received last week, which he initially dismissed as spam.
That message was from a Horry County man named Randy Graham, who was letting Wilson know his mother had located a 1991 class ring in Socastee over 10 years ago and that it might belong to the Garden State native.
Graham had posted an ad to Craigslist in the hopes of finding the ring's rightful owner. Inside the commemorative piece of high school jewelry was Wilsons's initials, and the Grand Strand man was able to track its probable owner to Haddon Heights, N.J., about 10 minutes outside of Philadelphia.
According to Graham, he posted a similar ad in the Haddon Heights area, asking if anyone happened to have a high school yearbook that could match the initials to the person.
"I got someone that replied two days later from that area with a Facebook link to a Brian Wilson page," Graham said. "I contacted him through Facebook and he was so excited."
"Excited" was an understatement.
"It just blew my mind," Wilson said Monday.
Although born and raised in Haddon Heights, Wilson spent a period of time living with his best friend in a rental home in Socastee starting in 1996. Eventually, financial problems forced him to move back home six years later, he said.
Enter Graham, whose 80-year-old mother found the ring in her rental trailer off Enterprise Road over a decade ago after the previous tenants had moved out. No forwarding address was left.
Wilson said it was about a year after he moved back to N.J. that he realized the ring was missing.
"It wasn't just a piece of jewelry," he said. "It represented the best time of my life."
Graham said his mother cleaned that particular trailer to re-rent, and she thought the ring's rightful owner would contact her.
That never happened, and she forgot about the ring until a year ago, when she rediscovered it among some items in her Conway home, according to her son.
He then took it upon himself to track down the owner, using Craigslist as a place to start.
By the time Wilson realized Graham's Facebook message last week was legitimate, he started to describe the ring in detail.
That's when Graham knew he'd found the owner.
"Craigslist and Facebook, a little help from a stranger, and a few days found the owner of a ring that was lost 20 years ago, who now lives 560 miles away from where he lost it," Graham said via email.
Wilson said Monday that Graham had put the ring in the mail for its journey back to Haddon Heights.
"I'm going to wear it the first day," Wilson said on regarding his plans for the ring upon its return.
Now 43, Wilson works in the HVAC business in his hometown. Still, he has never forgotten his time along the Grand Strand, and said he wants to move back one day.
It was a time in his life that holds a special meaning, one that has been reinforced thanks to the kindness of a local family.
"It just says a lot about the people down there," Wilsons said. "It made me feel good about humanity again."